Leading in Highlander: A Second Wind Perspective
(Note: This thread was originally posted on the now-deleted UGC forums, and stickied on the old RGL forum. As a former team leader, I think it has a lot of useful advice despite its age. Luckily, the thread was captured by archive.org before the old forum was disabled, so I’ve taken the liberty of reformatting and reposting it here.)
I’m Sovereign, the leader and sniper of Second Wind. I am writing this guide to try to breathe life into this league. A large part of why it’s seemingly dying is the fact that teams barely live beyond 1 season together. Since I started leading in Season 20 and as my team is still alive I’ve been requested to share my thoughts and experiences on leading.
As A Leader
First and foremost, I believe that as the leader you must be reliable in the eyes of your teammates. There must be trust and respect between the players and the leader or the relationships you build will be founded on nothing of value. I was able to accomplish this a handful of ways:
- I use a spreadsheet that I created and maintained to provide my players with information they wanted
- I keep a regular schedule of scrims and map reviews so that there is very little variation week-by-week
- I regularly socialize with all players on the roster to have them feel involved
- I am very transparent with everyone when it comes to team decisions and concerns, valuing their inputs
I’m sure there are other ways to do this but this gives a sense of security to your players. They are unlikely to have worries about their team dying so long as their leader takes such an active role in keeping it alive. It becomes easier for them to plan their lives and in return, they make it easier for you to plan things for the team.
How low you want to set the bar is entirely up to you but the lower the bar the harder it is to maintain your team. This may be quite harsh, but I did not allow players below a certain level of human competence to be on my team. For example, if players are unable to figure out their schedule on a weekly basis and they don’t show up without notice, they don’t get to be on the team. If they miss scrims because they “weren’t told,” they don’t get to be on the team.
Additionally, players who held back the development of other players also did not get to be on the team. Reasons may include not attending reviews (map, demo, etc.) and overall not improving, throwing games, or maybe just poor chemistry.
As the leader, it’s perfectly within your rights to uphold whatever standards you have. That’s what it means to lead. It’s possible your team’s skill will suffer for it, but your teammates will thank you for making their Highlander season a more pleasant experience.
Cutting players is something that every leader needs to face. A cut must first be identified, then it has to be executed properly or it results in internal strife or drama. In my opinion there are two scenarios where a cut needs to happen: when someone is holding back the development of others on the team (as mentioned above) and when there is poor, unsalvageable chemistry between the player and the team.
I would respond to each scenario the same. First, the disruptive player in question should be made aware of the problem. Second, the disruptive player must be given time to even attempt to solve the problem. Third, the rest of the team must be aware of the concern and evaluate their efforts as a group. If the third step results in dissatisfaction, I will make the cut without beating around the bush or leading the player on. Ideally this would be delivered via voice, but if it isn’t possible text is okay. I’ve made few cuts in my time as a leader but I found this to be the most effective and fair way.
It’s extremely important your team understands their seasonal goals. It’s also important for them to be realistic. For example, for S20-S23 our team goals were something like this:
Season 20 (Silver)
- Worst Case: Mid Silver
- Best Case: High Silver, able to compete in Gold in the future
- Form a stable team to climb ranks with
- A few scrims a week
Result: 4th place
Season 21 (Silver)
- Worst Case: Mid Silver
- Best Case: High Silver
- Team does not die
- Improve as a team as the season goes on
Result: 1st place
Season 22 (Platinum)
- Worst Case: Low Plat
- Best Case: Mid Plat
- Team does not die
- Improve as a team
Result: 8th place
Season 23 (Platinum)
- Make Playoffs
- Team does not die
- Improve as a team
Result: 7th place (We did not actually make playoffs because too many teams died and they did top 6)
When you attain a realistic goal, your team will feel like they’ve actually accomplished something that season.
Additionally, I see a lot of teams coming out of the gate predicting they’re going to win Silver with their roster stacked full of people who are somehow under the roster restrictions. This is fine if you deserve it, but all of you look ridiculous when 12 teams think they’re Gods in Silver. The moment you lose a game your entire team shatters with their fragile egos and your team dies. Good job.
Low morale means that there are a lot of negative feelings floating around the team. This is awful for a team environment and it stunts the development of players on the team. These are a few things I do to combat low morale:
Review things! Map reviews, personal demo reviews, STV demo reviews – all of these things will help your players feel less trapped when they are in a corner and don’t know what to do
Find a team mentor or personal mentor for your players! Having someone to ask when none of you have the answer is so important
Team events! A lot of people meme about it but we watch movies and anime together to bring us a little closer
Team Surveys! This is something I experimented with in S22 when we were losing everything in our first season of Platinum. It became a fun little exercise where we get to vote for each other for stupid categories like “Best Memes” or “Best Voice” and stuff. This exercise definitely benefits the more active members of the team over the shadow members though
At the end of the day, how much your players want to be on this team affect the overall success.
Scrims are a very delicate part of leading that should not be overlooked. Your team should aim to scrim teams either a little bit weaker or a little bit better than yourselves with a pregame similar to the match you have that week. This is ideal and might not be possible, but it’s important to try to strive for this so that your team does not develop poor habits or unfounded egos.
It’s also important to go into scrims focused on something. For example, if you scrim Upward and want to work on your 2nd hold, you could pull out of 1st on defense early just to ensure that you can try it. Winning or losing scrims is not that important.
Part of your job as a leader requires you to manage the roster. It is important to have players who can effectively sub in for a main when required. If you have 21 players on your roster and need to ring someone, don’t expect mercy from the other team and throw a bitch fit when they don’t allow ringers.
Furthermore, I am against the idea of having players roster ride. Not only is it a detriment to the league when players count towards a division they don’t belong in, but it takes away from having more teams.
If this is your first time leading there are 2 classes you will want to focus on solidifying before anything else: Demo and Sniper. These two classes are the best problem solvers in the game and if those two are weak your team will get stuck somewhere. Second Wind’s roster began with:
- Demo: Ragorism (main from S20 – S22, had to leave part way due to work)
- Sniper: Sovereign (main from S20 – present)
- Spy: MoonDoggy (main from S20 – S22, had to leave after due to work)
I’m sure that many of you who have played us recognize those names as being fairly solid players. My team was built entirely around the 3 of us.
It’s also favorable (but not required) to acquire your own Mumble server and game server to use for the team. This gives you a lot more control over the team environment that you should be shaping into a positive learning environment.
Growth and Development
If your team is a long-term project, the growth and development of players is important. It’s really difficult to play with a changing roster every season. You should be looking for players who want to play and who are interested in getting better. Avoid players who want to be on a good team and acquire players who want to be the ones that make a team good.
Logs.tf is a fantastic way to see statistics from a match or scrim. That said, not every statistic shares equal weight with one another. When we were being mentored by Jarrett in S20, one of the heaviest pieces of advice he gave us was, “You guys should not be playing for logs. You should be playing to win.” Anyone who knows me knows that I preach the same thing to everyone around me daily. There is a lot more happening in a game that may not be indicated in logs but have a greater impact.
Furthermore, playing by Jarrett’s advice puts one’s ego aside for the sake of the team. A common example of this is the SvS battles that Snipers have. There are players who live to see those stats, but they don’t really matter to me. The weight of the world should not be placed on my shoulders alone. The team needs to collectively take care of the other sniper and if I am having trouble I have no problems asking for help. If we were able to win but I had less sniper frags my ego is not bruised in the slightest.
I would also like to take this opportunity to call out anyone who manifests an ego out of losing a 3-2 KOTH game and having 40+ kills. This attitude is detrimental to your team.
Once your team gets a couple of seasons under its belt you must decide what the core of the team is and continue growing around those players. Your team will establish their own flavor in the league and you should start to add or replace the players around them to further support the core.
Surviving a Move-Up
Honestly there isn’t a whole lot to say about moving up. I thought real hard about this section but what it comes down to is how many of your players a) want to continue playing with each other and b) want to rise to the top. Even if most of your teammates are middle school graduates who wish to return to middle school because it’s easy, it’s possible to rebuild if the leader tries hard enough. This is the kind of effort that Platinum leaders like myself want to see people making.
Players with Potential
Every leader will have their own opinion, but the sum of my leading experiences tells me this: Look for the players who want to win. These players tend to have some mental image of their own ideal, perfect game that they pursue in scrims and matches. This results in them taking an active role in winning and having “heroic” moments. These players are the game changers.
On the flipside, there are players who are stronger at observing those around them and supporting them with smart plays. These are important to have too, but if your team has too many observers there will be no hope of a comeback when your team is on the ropes.
The true gems, however, are players who possess both those qualities. These players should become your team’s core.
As the leader of a Highlander team you must maintain the image of a leader and shape the team to your will. It’s possible to model your team after another, but I think without being aware of all the details I have listed above it is very hard to succeed. My hopes with this guide are that new leaders will build a proper foundation for their teams from now on instead of playing Jenga: UGC Edition. I’m sure that I’m not the only one that cherishes their memories from this league and even if I have only led for 4.5 seasons I want to contribute to its longevity. Following the path of Second Wind will at the very least result in your team staying alive which gives rise to the opportunity to grow and thrive within. I will mention the teams of dukk (Silver) and WALLOP (Platinum) which are led by ex-members of Second Wind who have followed in our example.
I went ahead and pinned this topic.
Leading in Highlander: A [REDACTED] Perspective